By Arab News
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei enjoys the final say on all of the country’s most important foreign and domestic issues. Any key policy has to be approved by him and his office in order to ensure the survival of the Islamic Republic. But Khamenei has not made his stance clear with respect to the nuclear deal — he has not even offered vague comments about this serious issue. He has kept his position secret for several reasons.
First of all, Khamenei is attempting to evade accountability, allowing him to blame other Iranian officials in case any agreement between the regime and other world powers fails. He uses this strategy at home as well. For example, he regularly blamesofficials for people’s economic problems. The term “officials” is intentionally broad and ambiguous in order to avoid incriminating any of the regime’s staff. In spite of the supreme leader’s many speeches blaming these figures, Iran’s judiciary, whose leader is directly appointed by Khamenei, has not followed up and brought anyone to justice.
Iran’s supreme leader used the same tactic in 2015, when he declined to state that he approved of the nuclear deal agreed by former President Hassan Rouhani and the P5+1 world powers. At the time, Rouhani and his team tried to send a bill ratifying the nuclear agreement to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council for approval, but Khamenei shrewdly directedit through parliament instead. If the bill had gone through the Supreme National Security Council, then it would have needed Khamenei’s public approval, which he did not want to give.
Secondly, the supreme leader does not publicly reveal his position on the nuclear deal because he does not want to be blamed by the ordinary people when they see that the financial benefits of the agreement do not trickle down to them. Instead, the funds will be funneled to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its elite branch the Quds Force, the Office of the Supreme Leader, politicians and the regime’s proxy militia and terror groups across the Middle East. This is particularly important when chantssuch as “Leave Syria alone, think about us instead,” “Death to Hezbollah,” “Forget Gaza, forget Lebanon, I’d give my life for Iran,” and “Death to Khamenei” have become popular in the recurring protests across the nation.
Third, when Khamenei does not publicly approve an international deal, he gives himself the option to pull out of the agreement whenever he wishes without being blamed or held responsible for approving it in the first place. This happened during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, when the regime suddenly decided to violatethe 2004 Paris nuclear agreement and resume its uranium enrichment. This is why the P5+1 should require that any deal with the Islamic Republic must be officially signed and approved by the supreme leader.
Fourth, Khamenei does not want to damage his legacy of anti-Americanism by publicly stating that he is in favor of a deal with the US.
Nevertheless, it is intriguing that, although he holds his cards close to his chest when it comes to the nuclear deal, he is vocal about the Islamic Republic’s ideological and revolutionary principles, such as spreading Shiism by strengthening the “axis of resistance,” creating Shiite proxies in predominantly Sunni countries and tipping the balance of power against Sunni countries. The supreme leader has repeatedly insisted in public that he will not change Iran’s regional policies of supporting Shiite proxies or interfering in the affairs of Arab nations. He also pointedout in 2015: “Whether the (nuclear) deal is approved or disapproved, we will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon.”
Furthermore, Khamenei always goes public about Iran’s other revolutionary and ideological principles, such as opposing the US and its allies. He has previously said: “In the present time, we have no negotiations with America on any other matter. There is no other matter. Everyone should know this. We do not negotiate with the Americans on regional issues, different domestic issues and international issues. Today, the only matter for negotiation is the nuclear matter. This will become an experience for us…. But if we see that they continue to behave in the same obstinate and deviant way, well, our previous experience will naturally be strengthened.”
In summary, Khamenei shrewdly does not make his stance on the nuclear deal clear in order to evade responsibility. World powers must require his explicit public approval for any deal with the Islamic Republic to go ahead.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh